It was the way my brother made me an ice-cream sundae. He was clear: this wasn’t the time to hold back or go cheap. It was so rare in my world to think this way. The church told us to sacrifice, apologize, kneel down. Repent! My parents told me to be quiet, be happy with less, and do not covet what others had. Even our food was about holding back: no salt, flavour, or fat because my dad was dying of heart disease. It was a world that begged me to be something I was not and I had to hide my inner self that dreamed of being in the theatre and living life as an artist.
When my brother Leo made ice-cream sundae’s he did so with abandon. He defended his right to excess in a world of lack and control. Sundae-making with Leo only ever occurred with the parents and older siblings out of the house and it would be just me and my two brothers who made up the bottom of the family. When we ate those sundae’s we did so with complete glee and abandon. There were no rations; we could have as much as we wanted! It had a kind of Lord of the Flies feel to it during those afternoons with Leo and the ice cream. We’d stepped over the boundary of constraints and into the world of flavour and laughter and joy.
Leo never judged me. He wasn’t threatened by my big drama, unbridled love of adventure, or storytelling obsessions. He saw life as an ice-cream sundae: full of possibility, delight, and simple pleasures. I would always come back to his house from travels afar to feel that same feeling I had as a child. It never left. I always felt free and loved in his presence for exactly who I was.
It’s been seventeen years to the day since he was tragically killed in a biking accident. I always say, there was life before Leo died and after Leo died. It changed me forever. I can’t pretend I feel any better about losing him now all these years later. I would give anything to share a sundae with him again. I’d pour extra chocolate sauce and load up on sprinkles. I wouldn’t scrimp or hold back. I would live in the moment and smile back at his wide, toothy, lovely smile and tell him how much I loved him. And thank him for loving me.